Speaking to newsmen in Porthacourt the spokesperson for the Coalition of Niger Delta Ex-combatants comrade Senibo said,
“We want to especially thank President Muhammadu Buhari for halting the termination of the amnesty programme which has brought reassurance to the hearts of all beneficiaries of this interventionist programme designed to usher in peace in the Niger Delta region.
As PAP (Presidential Amnesty Programme) beneficiaries, we
express profound gratitude for this well considered decision not to terminate the amnesty programme but rather to sustain the programme towards achieving sustainable peace and progress in the region and Nigeria at large.
According to him, it is on record that the Nigerian state has devoted substantial resources to the amnesty programme. Between 2009 and 2022, the programme has been allocated a staggering estimate of about N852billion, but without a commensurate result, it is quite sad to note that there are still thousands of untrained, uneducated, unempowered and unemployed beneficiaries roaming the streets in their various states.
Suffice it to say that the most current issue that resonates in the Niger Delta discourse is the DDR (disarmament, demobilization and re-integration) which is the offshoot of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, introduced by late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2009, as a stop-gap to prevent relapse that has crippled the incomes accruing from oil sales, to improve the, economic, cultural and political structures in the embattled region.
The DDR was run on full scale to enthrone enduring peace, but not without hiccups. It is on record that thousands of beneficiaries have been abandoned in the course of running the programme from the outset in 2009 till date.
Comrade Senibo further called on the interim administrator of the presidential amnesty programme to resuscitate the processes that would integrate those delegates who were successfully captured during the disarmament phase of the programme but did not have the opportunity to attend the non-violence training at Obubra for proper demobilization process, these ex-agitators who have been abandoned for over 12 years or so, we suggest that they should be considered for a direct individual financial empowerment for beneficiaries (DIFEB) in their various areas of business interest, this will go a long way in addressing the issues of this category of ex-combatants who are receiving monthly stipends but cannot be trained and empowered by the programme.
We also use this medium to draw your attention to Beneficiaries of this Programme, who are staff of the PAP whose salaries were abruptly stopped for no reason whatsoever, after a successful disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, by way of employment into the amnesty office, these employees were removed from the official payroll without just cause, no withdrawal letter or any formal disengagement process was followed, if the amnesty office which is saddled with the responsibility of reintegration of it’s beneficiaries would unjustly shut their doors against its own beneficiaries instead of employing more ex-agitators who do they expect to employ these ex-combatants?
The amnesty programme has served a strategic purpose of fostering peace, espousing entrepreneurship and industry by increasing stability in the Niger Delta region, which has enabled the Nigerian state to pursue its economic interests and at this point needs an administrator with a clear-cut vision, firmness, foresight, hindsight and capacity, which credentials and characteristics you have as a seasoned professional who has held sway in various commands, and rendered meritorious service to our beloved nation in the quest to restore peace and harmony in our beloved nation.
We have no doubt of your capacity to pursue the original mandate of the amnesty programme, as well as creating a realistic pathway away from dependence on monthly stipend.
We wish to state that part of Nigeria’s proposal for amnesty to militants in the Niger Delta region was based on the agreement that it would create an environment for meaningful development in the region under the strategic implementations action plan for the holistic development of the Niger Delta. But these grand plans have been dashed by ineptitude and the absence of a thorough, robust, structured and constructive Monitoring and evaluation, (M&E) system which helps us to track progress make adjustments, discover unplanned effects of the programmes, judge the impact of the programme on the lives of it’s beneficiaries.
It is the lack or absence of an effective monitoring mechanism and the abysmal failure of the previous administrations to employ the services of professionals in project monitoring, accountability, evaluation, and execution that littered this programme with substandard, badly executed and abandoned training and empowerment projects in the PAP.
Mr Senibo emphasized that the M&E system will also help this administration to be accountable to its sponsors, and stakeholders through complaint or feedback mechanism which can help guide the programme implementation. we also appeal that beneficiaries should also be involve as members of this M&E team.
He also urge the new Interim Administrator to operate an open-door policy that would enable stakeholders and beneficiaries to feel the impact of inclusiveness and diversity, transparency, accountability and active participation in your administration.
Nevertheless, our prayer is for the office of the amnesty programme to be taken back to its golden days when purposeful and result-based systems held sway.
Finally, We call on all stakeholders and beneficiaries of this programme to give their unwavering support to your administration as it strives to implement programmes that will contribute to the placement of beneficiaries into meaningful vocational training, empowerment and educational programmes so as to enhancing human capital development, building and ensuring peace in the Niger Delta to allow for investment and the development of the region In line with the genuine intentions of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to fast-track development in the Niger Delta as well as strengthening and enhancing the quality of life of its people.